Bend of the River (1952)

Bend of the River poster.jpg

Anthony Mann directed a big cycle of wonderful westerns in the 1950s. This adaptation by Borden Chase of a book by Bill Gulick stars the redoubtable James Stewart, who was busy remaking the notion of the hero in that decade. He is taking a wagon train to Oregon so that 100 people can build a country from scratch. But his background hoves into view when he teams up with another man (Arthur Kennedy) whom he rescues from a hanging tree and whose outlaw life is altogether more recent and the film is structured as they both reconcile in their different ways to a new kind of life – or not. Rock Hudson shows up as a gambler and Lori Nelson offers the female support. There is some good comic banter with the captain of a steamer. Beautifully shot with the usual familial trouble and secondary villain tropes detectable in Mann’s work. This reminds us that a complex interesting, characterful piece of work could be done in 91 minutes. With Julie (Julia) Adams.